Dealing with Seasonal Depression: Tips for Surviving the Winter Blues
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs during the winter months. SAD is thought to be caused by the lack of sunlight during the winter, which can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythms and lead to feelings of sadness, lethargy, and hopelessness. While SAD can be a debilitating condition, there are several treatment options available that can help ease the symptoms of seasonal depression. In addition, there are also some simple lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in how you feel during the winter months. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jessica Jean Baptiste explains that there are ways to identify seasonal depression. "Some common symptoms of SAD include: persistent low/sad mood nearly everyday, low energy, craving sugar or carbohydrates, weight gain, withdrawal from social activities, no longer enjoying the activities that were once enjoyable, problems with sleep (or oversleeping) and feelings irritable" Dr. Jean Baptiste points out. Here are 10 tips for surviving the winter blues.
Get outside every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Exposure to natural sunlight can help improve your mood and energy levels. Can't get outside? Dr. Jean Baptiste recommends Phototherapy, also known as “light therapy” which uses artificial light to replicate natural daylight. "It is recommended that you talk with your health care provider about the type of light box and frequency of use that is most appropriate for you" Dr. Jean Baptiste states.
Get Moving and Exercise
Exercise releases endorphins, which has great mood-boosting effects. The best mood boosting exercises are the ones that get your heart rate up and make you feel good. Even a simple walk around the block can make a difference. Some great mood boosting exercises include: Taking a brisk walk in nature, doing some form of cardio at the gym, taking a yoga or dance class, going for a run and even playing with a pet.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet is important for overall health and can also help improve your mood. Be sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Limit your intake of sugary and fatty foods, as these can lead to feelings of depression and fatigue. A nutritious diet can help improve your overall sense of wellbeing.
Make Time for Friends and Family
Socializing can be a great way to beat the winter blues. Spending time with loved ones can help improve your mood and give you a much-needed sense of connection and support. Being surrounded with positive energy and uplifting friends and family can help fend off feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for good health and can also help improve your mood. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about ways to improve your sleep habits.
Stick to a Routine
Having a daily routine can help minimize the effects of seasonal depression. Wake up at the same time each day, eat regular meals, and make time for activities that you enjoy. Having a set schedule can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
Find Ways to Relax
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help ease the symptoms of seasonal depression. Taking some time each day to unwind and de-stress can make a big difference in how you feel.
Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
While it may be tempting to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, these substances can actually worsen the symptoms of seasonal depression. Alcohol is a depressant, so it can lead to feelings of sadness and fatigue. Drugs can also interact with medications used to treat SAD, so it’s important to avoid them.
Seek professional help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. A therapist can help you develop coping strategies for dealing with seasonal depression. "Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have been found to be effective in reducing symptoms associated with SAD" Dr. Jean Baptiste explains.
Plan Fun Activities
Plan fun activities to look forward to. Having something to look forward to can help improve your mood during the winter months. For example, travel to a sunny and warm vacation destination. The change of scenery can be a welcome respite from the winter blues.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re feeling persistently sad or anxious, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she can help you determine if you have SAD and suggest treatment options. There are several effective treatments for SAD, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
There are many ways to combat seasonal depression. Some people may only need to make small lifestyle changes, while others may require medication and professional help. If you think you might be suffering from seasonal depression, talk to your doctor about treatment options. With the right help, you can beat the winter blues and enjoy the season.